Share your best Ideas about QA Process

  • What are the best processes with for Quality Assurance (aside from testing)? Do you use code reviews, code profilers? Do you use a QA Standards document, or just eyeball code? Also how do you provide feedback to the developers? What do YOU do for QA?

  • Unless you have a very low issue rate, use a database to track issue.
    Make the QA process interesting by getting developers to do TDD (Test-Driven Development). It's good for them, and it gets rid of the stupid bugs.
    Automate tests.
    Get QA involved in the product from the beginning, not just the last 2 weeks.
    Give them power. QA gets to decide when the product is ready to ship.
    Give QA a real career path.

  • I think all QA is multi-pronged. Developers must test their own code to ensure it does what he thinks it should do and it won't break the build. Testers should test against the specifications to see if the developer interpreted them correctly (developer testing almost never finds these problems). Peers should do code reviews to ensure that standards are followed and to promote learning. Users must do testing as well as they will try to do things that nobody expected or defined in the requirements. Often these are stupid things that make us shake out heads and go, "why would anyone every think to do that?" But many others are genuine requirements that were not in the spec because nobody bothered to ask the users what they need. Client acceptance testing should be done especially if you do custom development for different clients. It is far easier to show that a new request for work is new development rather than a bug, if the client has signed off on the work before it went to production. This can save tons of contractual battles over who is to pay for something.

    Additionally, having someone else fix your bad code is the best way to ensure that bad code will continue to be produced which why I hate the organizational structure that some companies have of having developers who do new things and support people who do fixes. Further a manager who fixes bad code to save time without sending it back to the developer to fix is causing problems for the organization not fixing them.

    Another big part of QA in my mind is taking the time up front to actually define the requirements and standards. (yes they will change through any large project, but they still are needed). Without requirements, testing is random at best. Without standards maintenance can become a nightmare and far more costly than need be.

    The last part of QA is learning from our mistakes. Unfortunately in many organizations you can't honestly have a post project discussion of what went wrong and how to prevent that next time without getting into a finger-pointing blame session that causes people be quiet rather than get bad marks against them for their performance appraisal. In fact performance appraisals in general are harmful to the goal of improving quality for this reason among many others. (Look up Deming and Total Quality Management to see the quality guru's thoughts on the harm caused by performance appraisals.)

    In theory there should be quality metrics that you can use to measure improved quality. In practice though, as long as your organization has performance appraisals, these numbers will often be "massaged" to make things look better or measure the wrong thing (fewer lines of code doesn't mean better code in all cases and more bug reports might mean we are doing a better job of finding (or at least reporting) the bugs not that the code is worse than in a past project) and are thus useless.

  • Notice that "Quality Assurance" often is not focused on improving quality as such, but rather to provide lack of errors. It is possible to make a high quality product that still has errors (but they better not be major errors of course). It is possible to make a product that is 100% free of errors but still does not provide quality. laser guided scissors

    Of course there is nothing wrong with trying to remove errors in your product, by all means. The risk with QA however is that the focus on hindering errors to occur might ironically interfere with increasing the quality of the product. Tom DeMarco wrote about this in one of his books (I do not remember which, but probably Peopleware) where he gives Adobe Photoshop as an example of what he think is a high quality product and why.

    From wikipedia:

    A definition in Steve McConnell's Code Complete divides software into two pieces: internal and external quality characteristics. External quality characteristics are those parts of a product that face its users, where internal quality characteristics are those that do not.

    Another definition by Dr. Tom DeMarco says "a product's quality is a function of how much it changes the world for the better." This can be interpreted as meaning that user satisfaction is more important than anything in determining software quality.

    I guess another way of saying it is that if QA only focuses on internal quality and nobody else have responsibility for external quality, you will only end up with a killer product by luck. I hope that I do not sound like I am negative to error removal, I just want to point out that it is not a silver bullet.

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